The Story Of The Narcoleptic Dog

October 21st, 2005 // Leave a Comment

I had a co-worker who was narcoleptic, and no one told me he was narcoleptic. He fell asleep once while I was talking to him, I obviously thought he was joking around (acting like he was asleep). I got a tad pissed off at him. Boy, did I feel stupid. I can only image the first time it happened to the dog, the owner probably thought it dropped dead.

What should be some of a dog’s greatest joys in life have become Skeeter’s worst nightmare. Food, a chance at chasing a squirrel, going for a walk, or even an opportunity to sniff another dog all have the same effect on the 11-pound toy poodle: he’s out cold. “He has no personality right now,” Shari Henderson told the Idaho State Journal. “It is scary. I don’t want him turning into a couch pillow.”

The condition, narcolepsy, is extremely rare in dogs. “I called four or five colleagues to brag that I’d diagnosed a narcoleptic dog,” said Rowntree, who first examined Skeeter on Oct. 11 because of an enlarged lymph node. The condition is more common in humans but has been documented in some dogs, horses, ponies and a single Brahman bull. It is caused by a disconnect between the normal sleep-wake cycle, triggered by excitement that causes the afflicted to go from being awake straight into a deep sleep. In humans, strong emotion triggers attacks, and dogs have strong emotions about eating, Rowntree said.

Stanford University researchers who studied a narcoleptic group of Dobermans discovered the dogs all lacked a certain brain protein involved in wakefulness. With Skeeter, initially, only the sight of food triggered attacks. His condition has progressively gotten worse, and Rowntree hopes the human medication he prescribed for Skeeter on Tuesday — Ritalin and an antidepressant — will help restore Skeeter’s normal routine.

Don’t let the Scientologists know about this one.

Play Dead: Dog Diagnosed With Narcolepsy [AP]

By Miu von Furstenberg

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